Your 2016 Digital "To Do" List

So, as 2015 winds down and re-runs of It’s a Wonderful Life beckon it’s that time of year again; to think – post holiday – what 2016 has in store and what should be the focus for your year AHEAD.

In that spirit I offer you seven ideas that should make up your Digital “To-Do” list for 2016. With an ocean (of digitally driven business transformation) to boil many folks in companies large and small are – in my observation – bewildered and paralyzed about what to do next.

There are a million things you could do – indeed, need to do. Some of them are strategic, big, heavy. Setting up a “New Co” spin off to attack yourself is strategic, big, heavy. Likewise getting off your ERP platform is entirely non-trivial. Kudos to you if you’re already on these cases or planning to get there soon. 1-800-Cognizant if we can help!

But there are a number of tactical, small, light things you could do which might just be the jamcrackers in your organization - your “single step”. Do one or all of them. Trust me, they won’t hurt!

1.Stop doing something – the first “to-do” is a “don’t-do”! The best question you can be asking yourself, your boss, your team, at the moment is not “what should we be doing?” but “what should we not be doing?” Assuming your 2016 budget has been nudged up by 3-5% you don’t have a ton more resources or people or time than in 2015. To make room to do the new things you’ve got to stop doing some of the old things. Stands to reason, non? But very few people/organizations seem to apply that logic. I’d recommended stopping doing 20-30% of what you’re currently doing. That might be a bit much for you; I’ll accept 10%. Deal. (And as an aside, don’t immediately fill the vacuum – let it percolate, let it breath. Don’t fill it with the first idea/thought that enters your head. But in time, if you jump, the net will appear).

2.Value an algorithm – the CIO of a big Cognizant client told me recently that one of his teams had valued an algorithm in their business at $100m. One algorithm.$100m.Wow! Though I’m a big believer in the ROI of the Future being pretty opaque, and the hunt for it, a fool’s errand, this struck me as a pretty good proof point for doubling down on tomorrow. Can you unleash some of your folks to go CSI and track down similar pots of gold? Bet you could. Probably worth it. Imagine if you found some. And imagine what the universe might be telling you if you didn’t...

3.Attend a conference/trade show focused on the future - either solo, or with a team, go to a show where the MO is not to CYA but to expose it. Tech Crunch Disrupt, LeWeb, Ignite, SXSW Interactive, Web Summit. All good choices. Immerse yourself in discomfort. Go and feel square and stupid. Good for the soul. And good for understanding how much there is to do and how late it is.

4.Give everyone Tableau – tell them it’s either a late or an early Christmas present. Though you need to hire a bunch more data high priests you should make everyone worship data. (We only trust in God, all else bring dataetc). Amazing what new things people see when you give them the new tools of the trade. Telescopes showed us the stars and the moons and gave us Copernicus and Nietzsche and Freud. Microscopes showed us electrons and atoms and gave us Curie and Fleming and Shockley. Who knows what the new “Datascopes” will show us and give us? Bezos and Zuckerberg (and a bunch of others) so far. Lots more to come it’s not hard to wager. Maybe you, or one of yours?

5.Tweet – Twitter is a Rorschach test. Some people see in it the Jungian collective unconscious of the modern world, with all the pleasure and pain that has surrounded us since time immemorial. Some see it as a silly waste of time. Whatever you think it is untenable to imagine that you (you singular or you plural i.e. in your corporate instantiation) can master the modern world if you simply don’t care for it. It’s unlikely that Picasso dragged himself out of bed of a Monday morning and said “Zut Alors, I’ve got to go and do some more painting today …” You should Tweet like there’s no-one watching (very probably quite true for the foreseeable future) until the new doesn’t feel so shocking. This is particularly true if you are over 40 and/or The Man in your neck of the woods.

6.Hire a Squanto – when the Pilgrims started figuring out the new lay of the land and realized they weren’t in Kansas anymore they put a young local called Squanto on the payroll. Good move. He showed them where the fish hung and the corn popped. I’d suggest you do the same, maybe unofficially (i.e. get your kids to show you how they Hotline Bling on Instagram) or better, officially, by having a 25 year “shadow” you for the year. Your objective shouldn’t be to show him/her how great you/the department/the company is but to show you the new lay of the digital land. Learn his/her lingo, customs, mores. Figure out what folks value in this strange new land. Understand how they think. Understand the future that they represent. Sure, over time, your Squanto will become more like you – “I like you kid, you remind me of me” – and at that point you can give him/her their freedom (!). But in the osmosis between you in the next 365 days you’re going to learn a lot about surviving in Digital Native terra incognita.

7.Visit the Collaboratory – the last, but most important, thing on your 2026 Digital “To Do” List is to come spend time with us here at the Collaboratory in midtown Manhattan. However long you can spare – an hour, a morning, a day, a month – we’d love to host you and your teams and collaborate with you in our laboratory on discovering the future of your work. Folks who have visited will happily tell you the water’s fine and you should jump on in. The Digital Lifeguards are standing by!

That’s it folks! Seven easy steps that will help you inch towards the future that starts at 00.01 01/01/16. Hope they help!
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes to you and yours for an outstanding 2016!